Katchatheevu: CPI wants rights for Indian fishermen

K.V. Prasad

NEW DELHI: The Communist Party of India on Tuesday said the government should renegotiate with Sri Lanka the treaty on Katchatheevu to benefit Indian fishermen.

Party national secretary and member of Parliament D. Raja made this demand after External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said the “right of access is not understood to cover fishing rights around the island to Indian fishermen.”

Mr. Krishna said this in a letter to Mr. Raja in response to a matter the CPI member had raised in the Rajya Sabha on July 27 regarding the arrest of fishermen from Rameswaram by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Mr. Raja said the government’s position was totally in line with the stand being adopted by the Sri Lankan government and in violation of assurances given in Parliament on the issue.

Referring to the then External Affairs Minister, Swaran Singh, Mr. Raja said that when the treaty was entered into in the 1970s, Mr. Singh told Parliament that Indian fishermen, particularly those from Tamil Nadu, would be allowed to fish in the sea around the island.

In his letter, Mr. Krishna said that under the agreement Indian fishermen were allowed access to the island for rest, for drying of nets and the annual St. Anthony’s festival. Disagreeing with the interpretation, the CPI leader said Indian fishermen did not go to Katchatheevu for rest and recreation. “They go there for fishing. The provision for drying of nets in the agreements has relevance only because the fishermen are allowed to fish. Otherwise why will they dry their nets.”